Letter from the President
[Gautam R. Desiraju] Gautam R. Desiraju

The International Year of Crystallography got off to a wonderful start in the Opening Ceremony that was held in UNESCO, Paris, on 20th and 21st January, 2014. More than 800 people attended, many stayed right through the day and a half of talks, presentations and discussions, and I was particularly pleased to see crystallographers and scientists from all over the globe. At one point in time on the day prior to the ceremony, around 15 of us from IUCr, UNESCO and elsewhere were on the stage of the auditorium, inspecting the various arrangements there, when someone pointed out that no two people on the stage had passports belonging to the same country. So, this event was truly international which is also in keeping with the character of the Union itself.

Any kind of societal development needs innovation and there is no substitute for scientific innovation from the academic and the private sector to strengthen development and build mechanisms for regional cooperation. When expertise is shared between countries, the results are usually beneficial to all. Of course, cooperation only works if the partners see themselves as gaining through such activities. A notable example is SESAME in Jordan, which is a regional joint venture of a number of countries in the Middle East and West Asia. The comments of the young scientists who participated in the round table conference were particularly interesting because they were able to raise genuine concerns and problems in the relatively short time that was provided to them in the Opening Ceremony. The Open Labs program of IYCr was also discussed and I am pleased to report that the labs in Uruguay, Ivory Coast and Algeria are now all set to proceed. A session that involved presentations from the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) provided a thought provoking background as to how science is being organized in these growing economies. In the end, one needs international cooperation between North and North, South and South and also North and South. We gain little in science today if we remain in isolated enclaves in the name of nurturing 'excellence' by so doing.

Other plans for IYCr continue, with the first summit meeting set to take place in Karachi between April 28–30 on a theme generally centered around chemical crystallography, but would also try to address issues of regional cooperation and the setting up of new schemes for collaborations in the South East Asian region. It is very notable that this summit is being supported in a large measure by the principal science academies of China, India and Pakistan. I have interacted with Chunli Bai in China, Atta-ur-Rahman in Pakistan and Samar Hasnain in the UK in the planning of this summit meeting and it is gratifying to note the high degree of friendship and cooperation among scientists from countries that have traditionally had various kinds of political differences. This has convinced me about the universal nature of the scientific enterprise and the fact that science can truly be used to bring nations together, in contrast to elements like politics, religion, ethnicity and economics that tend to pull countries apart. It is the international and absolute nature of science that facilitates this synthesis. I am glad that we crystallographers have had this opportunity through the International Year of Crystallography to pursue these loftier goals.

The deadline for abstracts for the Montreal Congress has now passed and registrations are open for the meeting. This is a very special IUCr Congress because it is taking place during IYCr and the organizers have prepared a program that is scientifically both enriching and enjoyable. Despite the advances in electronic communication it is difficult to deny the importance of face to face meetings such as is possible in a large Congress such as ours. I hope to see a large number of you in Montreal later this year.

Gautam R. Desiraju (desiraju@sscu.iisc.ernet.in)